May 7, 2012 at 9:07 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Education sec’y backs marriage rights for gay couples
Education Secretary Arne Duncan (photo via wikimedia by Kiran)

Education Secretary Arne Duncan (photo via wikimedia by Kiran)

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced on Monday he supports the idea of gay couples being able to legally marry at a time when administration officials’ position on the issue has come under greater scrutiny.

In appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” host Mark Halperin asked Duncan whether he believes “same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States.” The secretary’s response was succinct: “Yes, I do.”

Asked whether he’s ever articulated that support before, Duncan replied he doesn’t believe anyone has asked him publicly before about his marriage position.

On the program, Halperin said he intends to ask all administration officials who come on the show whether they favor marriage rights for gay couples.

Duncan’s remarks make him the second Cabinet secretary to come out for same-sex marriage. In November, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Shaun Donovan became the first public official to announce support for marriage equality.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said Duncan’s response “adds him to the drumbeat” of administration officials who’ve expressed support for same-sex marriage.

“Like Vice President Biden, former Presidents Clinton and Carter, former Vice Presidents Gore and Cheney, Laura Bush, and the majority of Americans, Secretary Duncan knows that loving and committed gay couples seek the freedom to marry for the same mix of reasons as other couples: to make a vow to one another, to share life with the person they love, and to protect their families,” Duncan said. “Standing up for the freedom to marry is not just the right thing to do, it’s the right thing politically, and it’s time for the President to stand on the right side of history.”

The president himself has yet to articulate support for same-sex marriage. In October 2010, Obama said in response to a question from AMERICAblog’s Joe Sudbay that he could evolve to support marriage equality. However, the president has yet to announce support for marriage equality.

The secretary’s comments come the day after Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” he’s “absolutely comfortable” with the idea of married gay couples having the “same exact rights” as straight couples, which was reported by many media outlets and bloggers as an endorsement of same-sex marriage. Biden’s office has said his comments weren’t anything new and the vice president is evolving on the issue like President Obama.

Watch the video (via Think Progress)

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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